All in one Boat: The Vikings as European and Global Heritage
By Søren Sindbæk
Proceedings of the Internationale Conference Ename, Belgium, 17–19 March 2011, edited by Dirk Callebaut, Jan Mařík and Jana Maříková-Kubková (2013)
Abstract: This paper presents a survey of contexts and places where Vikings are currently highlighted as a European cultural heritage, and discusses how this heritage is presented, and why so. The most significant contemporary importance of the Viking heritage, it is proposed, is not as a Scandinavian ancestral image, nor as a epitome of ruthless but enterprising barbarians, but as Europe’s most distinctive historical and archaeological heritage relating to the world-wide maritime expansion of the Early Middle Ages. As such, ‘Vikings’ are historical champions of cultural models beyond the vision of a lost Roman identity implied by the concept of a ‘Middle Age’.
Introduction: Europe, according to one of its most ardent historians, Marc Bloch, was a creation of the early Middle Ages. Yet it was not an achievement shared between every part of the continent. “European civilization arose and flowered”, declares Bloch, “until in the end it covered the face of the earth, among those who dwelt between the Tyrrhenian, the Adriatic, the Elbe and the Atlantic Ocean. It had no other homeland.”
This is a view, which finds considerable resonance in the dialogue of European heritage even today. Especially, one may suspect, among those who dwell between the Tyrrhenian, the Adriatic, the Elbe and the Atlantic Ocean. It resonates strongly in a historiography, which continues to distinguish a Gallo-Roman historical mainstream from developments in “Outer Europe”, as it is termed in a prominent recent historical synthesis.
Top Image: Photo by Hans Splinter / Flickr